Continuity in In The Shadow of No Towers

Considering that Spiegelman worked on these pages one at a time, for months at a time, I’d like to discuss the continuity, or lack thereof between pages.

To begin with, there’s the use of the different art styles. Page 4, the scenes of Nadja’s school, stood out to me the most as having the art style most distinct from the rest of the book. The pastel colors and soft lines contrast significantly with the generally sharp or harsh lines and stark colors used throughout. 

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On the face of it, this seems like an attempt to channel the feelings of disorientation and un-realness stemming from his experience and the process of piecing memories back together after a trauma. In invoking the different art styles, Spiegelman is also bringing up his relationship with those segments of the comic world, which Colin talks about in his post. The use of different art styles also seems to be a way to break past the two dimensional barrier. The different styles juxtaposed over each other suggest a collision of multiple sources from outside the page.

This push against the two dimensional boundaries of the page is reflected in the way that the panels are placed. On every page, Spiegelman uses the gutters between the panels to give depth perception to the comic: the panels look like they are pasted over a background. Page 8 provides an example of him turning this around, by showing the foreground Art in the panel take a jackhammer to the forehead of the Art in the background upon which the panel is placed, resulting in an M.C. Escher-esque impossible geometry.

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This use of the third dimension in the two dimensional medium draws upon the architectural aspect of comics that we have mentioned. The reader not only goes up and down, left and right, but in and out of the page as well. This depth also emphasizes the disparate collection of sources that the panels have been assembled from and the disorientation that is inherent. The image in page 2 of the frame rotating to become a burning tower uses the third dimension to demonstrate how the trauma has broken the existing structure:

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However, this ability to move along the third dimension is hindered by blocked panels, by barriers that are impossible to move past. At once this provides possibility and frustration to the reader, reflecting perhaps the structure of memory.

While the varied art style and three-dimensional layering suggests tendencies towards discontinuity, one thing to notice is that the image of the burning skeleton of the World Trade Center is on every page somewhere, sometimes in foreground panels, sometimes in the background, but always there. This seems to me to be a conscious effort by Spiegelman to maintain an ongoing coherent thread from page to page.

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